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What kinds of policies should your handbook include?

Creating a detailed volunteer handbook for all new volunteers is an essential step to orient and inform volunteers to your organization's culture, policies and expectations.

The handbook should be as detailed as possible. This is your chance to include everything you need your volunteers to know about your organization’s policies. This is also an opportunity to protect your organization from liability should an incident occur where volunteer conduct is called into question. Here are suggestions for covering some basic, but very important policy considerations:

  • Include a statement outlining your organizations non-discriminatory policy and non-harassment policy
  • Notify volunteers of potential background checks (be sure to conduct background checks in all situations involving minors or members of other vulnerable populations)
  • Outline your organization’s confidentiality agreement and policies related to conflicts of interest
  • Ask permission to use volunteer information if necessary
  • State your organizations policy regarding work with minors, appropriate relations with clients and amongst other volunteers and staff members
  • List expectations regarding attendance, dress code and conduct while volunteering
  • Articulate your disciplinary procedures and termination policies (if you do not have one of these, now is the time to create one!). This also must include behaviors which would require disciplinary actions. Do not be afraid to list the obvious: drug use, alcohol, and firearms etc.
  • If your organization takes court mandated volunteers, list the policy
  • Include emergency procedures

In short: your handbook should include all of your policies that are relevant to volunteers.

Other important things to include in a volunteer handbook are:

  • Your organization’s story and mission
  • Volunteer management staffing and contact information
  • Acknowledgement of value and contribution of volunteers
  • Position descriptions

Check out this Volunteer Orientation Manual - Template, developed by the Volunteer Centre of Camrose and District, for a detailed guide to creating your very own volunteer handbook.

Sample Handbooks

We have provided a few examples of great volunteer handbooks that were developed through VIP 360. Use these models to develop your organization’s volunteer handbook. These organizations all provide very different services and engage volunteers in many different ways, however, you will see that their handbooks have many similar elements.

  • Volunteer Handbook - Rainier Valley Food Bank, provides food to families and individuals living in the Rainier Valley neighborhood in South Seattle.
  • Volunteer Handbook - Hearing Speech and Deafness Center is an educational, service, and supply resource for deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech impaired people.
  • Volunteer Handbook - Life Long AIDS Alliance provides a wide range of services and support to people living with HIV and AIDS, as well as promoting HIV prevention in the community.

Return to Topics in Volunteer Management Guide.